Gurmant Grewal has just released the tapes and the transcripts of his calls which show that Prime Minister knew of the deal to bribe Grewal to cross the floor.
Democracy Watch published a media release yesterday that lamented the still-existing loopholes in the disclosure of political campaign contributions. But has Democracy Watch lost sight of the big picture?
(My emphasis in bold)
FIRST QUARTERLY DISCLOSURE OF
FEDERAL POLITICAL PARTY DONATIONS SHOWS
UNDEMOCRATIC SECRET DONATIONS STILL DOMINATE,
LIBERALS THE CHOICE OF WEALTHY DONORS
Monday, May 30, 2005
OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released its initial analysis of the first quarterly disclosure of donations to federal political parties under the new political donations system. The new system requires donations made directly to parties to be disclosed quarterly (donations used to be disclosed once each year), bans donations to parties by corporations, unions and other organizations, and limits individuals to donating a combined annual total of $5,000 to each party and all of the parties candidates and riding associations.
This is the legislation that the Liberals wrote and tabled in the legislature on January 29th, 2003.
Democracy Watch’s report continues…
As a result of the change to the new disclosure system this year, the 2005 first quarter donations have been disclosed before the 2004 annual donations (which will be disclosed in July 2005).
The key point of Democracy Watch’s analysis is that new donations system has many serious loopholes that allow wealthy interests to use money as a means of undemocratic, unethical influence over the federal government and federal political parties, as follows:
- secret, unlimited donations to nomination race and election candidates are still legal as long as the candidates do not use the money for their campaign;
This concern makes sense. Chretien should have closed this loophole…
- donations of volunteer labour do not have to be disclosed, allowing corporate and special interest lobby groups to make large, secret donations to parties, riding associations and candidates;
This point is significant, as perhaps the most scandalous revelation of the Gomery inquiry was the bankrolling of Liberal campaign “volunteers” by Liberal friendly ad companies such as Groupaction. These volunteers were paid salaries by Jean Brault in exchange for substantial contracts brokered by the Liberal party and paid for by the taxpayer.
- the individual donation limit of $5,000 facilitates funneling of donations by corporations, unions and other organizations through executives and employees, and is much higher than an average Canadian can afford and therefore is undemocratic (the limit should be lowered to $1,000);
Again, this is a fair point. I wonder which party took the most donations over $1,000.
- a donor’s employer and major affiliations are not required to be disclosed, nor are the identities of donors who donate less than $200, making it too easy to hide funneling of donations by corporations and other organizations (for example, Jean Brault of advertising company Groupaction testified at the Gomery Commission Inquiry that he funneled donations to the federal Liberals and the Parti Quebecois through his employees), or by one individual through another individual
Now Democracy Watch brings up Jean Brault. Campaign workers were paid undeclared salaries and brown envelopes full of cash were handed off to senior Liberals in restaurants. Yes, Brault may have put the icing on the Liberal cake by funneling less-than-$200 donations and this raises an alarm, yet a small one in comparison to the massive funneling of illegal cash to the Liberal party.
- the identity of donors who donate to a candidate or riding association and then have their donation transferred to a party are not required to be disclosed quarterly, allowing parties to hide the identity of donors for up to 18 months
Again, this represents a loophole that should have been closed in the original Liberal legislation. We’ll see how this comes into play later.
- donations received during a year in which an election is held do not have to be disclosed before election day, and as a result voters have to cast their ballot without knowing who has bankrolled each party and candidate.
An interesting idea. I’d like to see this problem rectified.
“Until all donations are required to be disclosed and donations are limited to a more democratic level, Canadians should assume that the federal parties and their candidates are receiving secret donations, or hiding the identities of donors who are tied to corporate and special interest lobby groups or wealthy individuals,” said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chair of the nation-wide Money in Politics Coalition.
All parties are presumed guilty by DW?
The Election Canada statistics for donations made from January 1, 2005 to March 30, 2005 to the Bloc Quebecois, Conservative Party of Canada, Green Party of Canada, Liberal Party of Canada, and New Democratic Party reveal the following:
- the identities of a large majority of donors to all the parties are not required to be disclosed because they have donated less than $200 so far in 2005, and these donors have donated a large majority of the amount donated so far in 2005 to the Conservatives and NDP (Percentage of each party’s donors donating less than $200, total they donated, and percentage of total individual donations made so far in 2005: Bloc – 97% of donors donated less than $200, and donated a total of $21,220 (which is 17% of total donated); Conservatives – 95.8% donated total of $2,011,099 (77.9%); Greens – 95.5% donated total of $16,284.90 (36.6%); Liberals – 61% donated total of $190,691.91 (11.2%), and; NDP – 96.1% donated total of $426,393.90 (76.2%) — if this trend continues until the end of 2005, or is present in the 2004 donation figures (to be disclosed in July), it will be clear that small donations must be disclosed to ensure funneling of large donations from wealthy interests through others is not occurring;
This is quite an alarmist statement considering what is being discussed. Let’s take the Conservatives for example: 95.8% of money donated so far this year has been by individuals giving less than $200 and this money has totaled $2,011,099. I wonder if there is a good explanation for the large proportion of modest individual support for the Conservative Party.
- the Liberal Party receives four times more money from riding associations and candidates than all the other parties combined (Bloc – $2,040 received from ridings, $0 from candidates; Conservatives – $64,986.36 from ridings, $0 from candidates; Greens – $0 from ridings, $172.97 from candidates; Liberals – $260,685.47 from ridings, $282,082.87 from candidates; NDP – $0 from ridings and candidates) and as a result, the Liberals are, in effect, hiding the identities of donors that donated 20% of their total donations until mid-2006 (because riding associations and candidates only disclose their donors once per year);
This is quite a scathing report on the funding of the campaigns of the Liberal Party of Canada.
- the Liberals have many more donors donating more than $1,000 than all the other parties combined (Liberals – 141 (plus 39 groups of donors with the same family name who donated a combined total of more than $1,000; Bloc – 1; Conservatives – 36 (plus 7 groups of donors with the same family name who donated a combined total of more than $1,000); Greens – 3; NDP – 5 (plus 3 groups of donors with the same family name who donated a combined total of more than $1,000));
- the average donation to the Liberals was 3-5 times larger than the other parties (average donations were Bloc – $66.10; Conservatives – $90.23 (under $200 – ed.); Greens – $62.26; Liberals – $314.84, and; NDP – $64.57);
The average amount donated by an individual to the Conservative Party of Canada was $90.23, a figure less than $200. Again, 95.8% of donations were less than $200 and totalled $2,099,011. It is true that up to 22,288 could have been part of a conspiracy to funnel this much money from corporations to the Conservative Party, but I think that the more likely explanation is that the Conservative party has support from actual individuals who would give their hard-earned money to fund change. The Liberals have been accused of using the less-than-$200-funneling-method, the Conservatives have not.
- the Conservative Party has a base of individual donors that is much larger than the other four parties (the Conservatives received donations from 28,624 individuals, 3.3 times more than the NDP (which received donations from 8,663 individuals), 5.29 times more than the Liberals (which received donations from 5,409 individuals), 15.19 times more than the Bloc (which received donations from 1,884 individuals), and 40.03 times more than the Green Party (which received donations from 715 individuals), and;
I assume that a high proportion of donations from individuals represents a good first step for preventing the corruptibility of politicians by special interest groups, corporations and unions. The Conservatives score high here.
- the Conservatives raised the most money ($2,647,633.36) of any of the parties in the first three months of 2005, followed by the Liberals (2,245,743.17); NDP ($559,352.48); Bloc ($126,577.73), and; Greens ($44,691.37).
The Conservatives raised the most money compared to the other parties? And they have an individual donor base that is 3.3x, 5.29x and 15.19x greater the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc, respectively? Good for the Conservatives. They seem to be financed in the spirit of representing the individuals in their constituencies. What does Democracy Watch conclude?
“All the federal parties have responded to the Gomery inquiry by claiming they are concerned by the evidence of scandalous donation activities, yet none have taken steps to close the donation loopholes that currently make it legal to corrupt federal politicians with secret donations,” said Conacher. “If the parties do not close these loopholes before the next election, all Canadians should assume that they are voting for politicians who lack integrity and have no problem with being corrupted by secret donations.“
Democracy Watch damns all parties to the same degree in this conclusion.
The Liberals have many more donors donating more than $1,000 than all the other parties combined. (DW suggests the max limit should be reduced to $1,000 as most Canadians cannot afford to give as much as $5,000)
Gomery has revealed that the Liberals have allegedly used undeclared corporate-bankrolled “volunteer” labour to work election campaigns in Quebec.
The Liberal Party receives four times more money from riding associations and candidates than all the other parties combined. Remember that the identity of donors who donate to a candidate or riding association and then have their donation transferred to a party are not required to be disclosed quarterly, allowing parties to hide the identity of donors for up to 18 months.
Where does Democracy Watch find fault in the Conservative Party of Canada?
In a year where a commission of inquiry hears evidence about hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing to the Liberal Party in unreported, illegal cash and in-kind contributions, allegedly in exchange for favoritism in government ad contracts, Democracy Watch is worried about $85-a-year donors corrupting the process of government in Canada.
The Conservative Party has the largest base of individual financial support to the party and the party has raised the greatest sum of cash from these individuals. While Conservatives receive a substantial proportion of donations in the under $200 range, most of these donations are likely from Ma and Pa Conservative rather than funneled through corporations as the Liberals have been found to do. The only criticism leveled against the Conservatives, NDP, Bloc and Green Party is more appropriately directed at the system. The Liberal legislation allows anonymous contributions under $200 and it is not fair to say “all Canadians should assume that they are voting for politicians who lack integrity and have no problem with being corrupted by secret donations”. The non-Liberal parties, including the Conservatives, are merely participants in a system governed by the rules written by Chretien and the Liberals.
Democracy Watch loses credibility in publishing such a report that damns all parties to the same degree while it is evident that the abuses are perpetrated by the Liberals. The suspicion of impropriety of the other parties is not a function of their fundraising practices, but of the defined system. One would think that instead of focusing on pithy $200-a-year undeclared donations that are most likely coming from genuine individual supporters of the Conservatives, NDP, Bloc and Green Party, Democracy Watch should first focus upon the need to stop the massive funnelling of illegal cash and corporate in-kind donations to the Liberal party.
Canadians might have thought that the budget showdown was over when Chuck Cadman stood, chewing his gum, to vote to keep the government alive in the closest confidence vote in Canadian history.
But, it’s not over yet. The budget still has to go through the finance committee, on which the Liberals and NDP lack majority influence. Tories plan to examine the budget bill and the NDP amendment very closely and stretch out the committee work to push the 3rd reading past the summer Parliamentary recess date.
Why would they do this? The answer is simple and amounts to some simple parliamentary strategy. Jack Layton, fresh off of his first taste of power, made a public statement declaring that the budget bills should pass before the summer break or the Liberals will lose NDP support. So, what does this mean for the Conservatives? Divorce the NDP from the Liberals by stalling the budget in committee, allow the NDP to take the high-ground by letting them say to the public that “they tried to make Parliament work”, and leave the Liberals without a final vote on the budget.
The NDP will respond by demanding that Parliament work through the summer, and depending on the polls, the summer break might be cancelled.
However, if the polls show a strong Liberal lead, the Grits may table their own confidence motion staging their own demise and will run on the budget that almost was. Conservatives may try to bank upon this by counting upon low summer pro-corruption turnout versus a high(er) summer anti-corruption voter turnout. While the Labrador byelection saw a predictable Liberal win, it saw an increase in voter turnout, which mostly turned out to vote Conservative.
Allow defeat before the summer break to force an election in the middle of summer? The NDP might just go for it if they’ve matured into their own party, instead of cheap Liberal backups.
From the “not at all helping things” department, comes a chilling political endorsement from Iran’s supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei through his spokesman Hojatolislam Gholam Reza Hasani.
“You need to vote for Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani,” said Hasani. “This way we will finally be able to have for ourselves the atomic bomb”
Rafsanjani was previously President of Iran from 1989-1997 and was a special and trusted advisor to Ayatollah Khomeini. The influential Iranian politician served on the Revolutionary Council at the founding of the new Islamic Republic
He is considered a front-runner in the Iranian presidential election to be held on June 17th.
I’ll just sit back and let the headline in the Globe and Mail do the talking:
“But how can Canada fail at something so noble and so just as environmental protection, especially in comparison with the big bad United States”, you might say? Well, sorry to shake your myopic Liberal-induced self-aggrandizing worldview, but it seems George W. Bush is doing more to reduce environmental pollution than Canada’s Liberal Party.
The direct release of dangerous pollutants — including lead — into the environment increased by 5 per cent in Canada during a five-year study period, the Commission for Environmental Co-operation of North America reported yesterday.
During the same period, on-site pollution levels in the United States decreased by 14 per cent, said the commission, which the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico established to monitor North American environmental trends.
Some truth is offered to counter the Liberals’ Canadian bedtime story:
The study’s conclusions, therefore, will surprise those who believe the rhetoric of Canadian politicians, said John Bennett of the Sierra Club of Canada.
(Yes, that Sierra Club)
“Our politicians talk a better game” about cleaning up the environment, he said. “But when the Americans act, they usually act much more strongly.”
In fact, U.S. anti-pollution laws, especially the federal Clean Air Act, have been more effective than Canada’s patchwork of federal and provincial regulations, he added.
This record is shameful and we, as Canadians, must demand better from our government to reduce environmental pollution. The Conservative Party of Canada proposed a “made in Canada clean air initiative” last year during the federal election campaign. It’s time to take another look at a real plan for environmental protection, instead of the Liberal plan which, in practice, does little to reduce environmental pollutants and buys billions of dollars worth of carbon dioxide credits from India and China.
Ok, I too am tired of all of the BS news that has been floating around on the airwaves and on newsprint. But, here’s a letter to the editor of the National Post from the President of the Conservative Newmarket-Aurora EDA who, of course, feels betrayed. Let’s hope it’s the last BS post for a while.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
As president of the Newmarket/ Aurora Electoral District Association for the Conservative Party of Canada, I find the stunning hypocrisy of Belinda Stronach’s defection to the Liberal party breathtaking. She did not consult with her political base — either the riding association or the voters in the riding. She also did not, according to her own statements during the press conference with the Prime Minister, spend much time reflecting on her decision, as she said her deliberations only began a few days before, after a conversation with former Liberal premier David Peterson.
Nonetheless, I still consider her a friend. And as a friend, I can neither understand her actions nor condone them. She has chosen to join a party that only a week prior she had vowed to defeat. Her concerns about Conservatives helping Quebec separatists are both misguided and without merit.
What is particularly galling is that, in addition to being made Minister of Human Resources, Ms. Stronach is now responsible for democratic renewal. If it were not for the seriousness of her actions, it would be laughable.
I feel for the hundreds of volunteers and thousands of Conservative voters who put their faith and trust in her as our Conservative member of parliament. However, our riding association is moving forward.
I urge all voters in our riding — at the next opportunity — to make Ms. Stronach a “private” citizen once again.
Stephen Somerville, president, Newmarket/Aurora Electoral District Association, Conservative Party of Canada.
It’s that time again, when I dust off an email from the NDP from the bottom of my inbox and read out the comedic gems that lie within. (I get email from all of the parties, just to keep track of the spin. The NDP emails are always the most entertaining to read).
Remember when we labelled the budget the “NDP budget” to underscore how the Liberals sold out to Buzz and friends? Well the NDP uses this term too to boast about their ‘awesome’ power over Paul Martin.
(email dated May 20th)
Last night history was made as the House of Commons adopted the first ever NDP federal budget bill.
The NDP’s better balanced budget amends the original Liberal budget by deferring $4.6 billion in corporate taxes and invests that money into people and the environment.
Yay for people! Yes folks, it’s an NDP budget! Is this the government that you voted for?
Then they offer up some selective quotes from the media!
“In the next federal election — whenever it is held — NDP voters won’t flee to the Liberals for fear of wasting their votes. Instead, Liberal support will bleed to the NDP, the party that knows what it wants. The party that gets things done.” — John Ibbitson, Globe and Mail (April 27, 2004)
and this one will have Ralph Goodale, well, thankful that he’s still got his cabinet limo:
“[Jack Layton] has had so much influence now on a budget, more influence than members of the Liberal caucus, for instance. He has totally changed Martin’s agenda. He’s had more influence than Ralph Goodale.” — Jane Taber, Canada AM (April 27, 2005)
Yes folks, they’re gloating! And then those silly dippers get dilusional along with the Globe and Mail…
“NDP Leader Jack Layton was looking positively prime ministerial when he announced yesterday’s agreement with the Liberals.” — Editorial, Globe and Mail (April 27, 2005)
Oh, those wacky guys/girls at the NDP! Canadians must think that the NDP is just adorable for their David vs. Goliath spin on everything.
And while the Honourable members from gumdrop-land and tofu-junction are playing accountant, over 300,000 jobs are lost!
Thank the Liberals for the NDP budget and thank Jack Layton for keeping a corrupt government in power so it can accomplish the corruption that Canadians sent it there to do!
Ok, time shift the focus from “The Liberals have lost the moral authority to govern”.
My suggestion to fellow CPC spinners in the blogosphere and on tv/radio is to pretend as if the statement above is already a known fact among all Canadians. Do not say it as if you’re trying to convince anyone of this statement.
Instead say it matter-of-factly:
“Well Peter, everyone knows that the Liberal party is ready to be shelved away”
and make this matter-of-fact statement the truth for Canadians by backing it up with modest honesty.
“Well Peter, everyone wants change in government, to replace the Liberals, however the Conservative Party needs to offer Canadians a better choice and we’re working everyday to bring our message of change to the country.”
Yes, we can still say that the Liberals are corrupt. Just don’t do it in a “I need to convince you of this tone”. Shift it to a “I’m just setting the context of what we’re talking about tone so I can bring an honest and constructive vision that the Conservative Party can offer” type of tone.
“Well Lloyd, everyone and their brother knows wants their government to be free of criminal activity, here’s what we’re doing to help Canadians take their country back…”
The Conservative Party finished riding the Parliamentary rollercoaster this week as the week started out with Stephen Harper’s foot on the throat of a dying Liberal minority government facing certain defeat on its budget butchered-by-Buzz.
Then from the Right, the bottom fell out as a blond precocious Parliamentarian bolted to the Grit benches so fast that the ink was not yet dry on her ten-percenter sent out to her constituents ripping the Liberals on “government corruption”.
And then the budget vote, lost by the most narrow of margins. It was a budget that I almost expected Ralph Goodale himself to vote against. It wasn’t to be and the Conservatives will fight on another day.
But how should we fight? What should we do now as Conservatives?
First, get Stephen Harper into Quebec, about three or four times a week. What’s the game-plan in Quebec? Talk about how la belle province and how la oil-well province are similar and how their fight is the same in Ottawa. Bring the message to Ottawa: “It’s the fiscal imbalance, stupid”.
Second, have Stephen Harper do one of those fluff news pieces where a reporter, cameraman, Harper, Mrs. Harper and say Peter Mackay go out on the town (get Rona Ambrose to babysit) and have a couple of pints and talk about a range of topics from raising their own children to rugby to favourite rock groups from the 80s. Those of us in the party know that Harper is human and a Helluva Guy. It’s time to let the country know. It’s a human interest piece and no network would reject it unless the board of directors has a hidden agenda.
Third, continue to press the Liberals on Adscam in Question Period, however, use Ablonczy, Jaffer, Ambrose and some of the other secondaries. Use Harper and Mackay to press the Liberals on Conservative issues (ie. set the House agenda on debating Conservative issues, not Liberals issues). For example, Monte Solberg could ask “Mr. Speaker, what does the Minister of Finance have against the Conservative plan to give Canadians the tax relief that they need in order to raise their average take-home pay for the first time in 15 years?”. When rebuffed by Goodale, Monte could then use up his time by outlining how good the Conservative plan is for Canadians. The point is to change the angle of debate to debate the merits of a Conservative government instead of the merits of a Liberal one (Canadians already know that the Liberal government has no merit — they need to know why a Conservative one does).
Fourth, dominate news coverage. Canadians should not only perceive that the Conservatives represent a government in waiting, they should think that the Conservatives are all but official. The shadow cabinet should make announcements as often as possible if not daily. Failing that, break out the sombreros.
Fifth, don’t close the door to Liberal defectors on principle. A Liberal crossing the floor to the Conservatives gains more ground (significantly negative Liberal press) than rejecting one based on principle (moderately positive Conservative press).
Stephen Harper reiterated yesterday that the Conservative Party needs to present itself as the credible federalist option to Quebecers. He noted that there wasn’t a single non-separatist MP from Quebec that voted agaist corruption when everyone was counted on C-48.
So, I went on a trek through the Quebec blogosphere today and found this reassuring piece from a one-time CPC Belinda Stronach supporter that both wishes her well but also reconfirms his commitment to the Conservatives:
Je continuerai donc à militer avec les conservateurs.
Parce que je pense encore qu’un gouvernement libéral est au coeur de tous les problèmes provinciaux par sa soif d’accaparer 50% des impôts pour 25% des compétences. Parce que je suis encore certain que la gestion libérale est le vrai moteur de l’archaïque mouvement patriotique et souverainiste. Parce que le gouvernement libéral a commis trop d’erreurs et de gaspillage des fonds publics : programme d’enregistrement des armes à feux, scandale des ressources humaines… et bien sûr scandale des commandites… sur le dos des contribuables. Parce qu’aussi, je l’avoue, je supporte très mal l’arrogance de Jean Lapierre.
Parce que le Bloc est l’équivalent d’une ligne ouverte : capable de dénoncer, sans être capable de changer quoi que ce soit. Parce que même si les gens au NDP sont les plus sympathiques, les plus humains et les plus démocrates, ils proposent une plate-forme économique farfelue qui mettrait les canadiens dans un danger r´el de perte d’emploi majeur et d’endettement.
UPDATE: I’ll try a translation hopefully without embarrassing myself too much…
I will therefore continue to fight for the Conservatives
Because I still think that a Liberal government is at the heart of all provincial problems because it thirsts to monopolize 50% of the taxes for 25% of the services. Because I am still certain that Liberals are the actual motor of the old and tired separatist movement. Because the Liberal government has committed too many mistakes and has wasted too much public money: the firearms registry, the HRDC boondoggle… and certainly the Sponsorship Scandal… on the backs of taxpayers. Because, I’ll admit it, I also very badly support the arrogance of Jean Lapierre.
Because the Bloc is like an open line: capable of criticizing, without being able to change anything. Because even if the people in the NDP are the nicest, the most humaine, and the most democratic, they are proposing an eccentric economic platform that put Canadians in real danger of increased unemployment and debt.
Hope I got the translation right!
UP-UPDATE: Check OttawaCon’s translation in the comments section. It’s probably better than mine!